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One of the most common questions we get from parents is around the curriculum at independent schools – what it is like, and how it differs from state schools.  

Put simply, independent schools have the freedom to deviate from the national curriculum in order to provide the best possible education for their pupils. All schools are of course monitored and inspected to ensure their high standards are being met, but they do not have to be measured against the national curriculum.   

In this blog, we’ll go into a bit more detail about what you can expect from an independent school curriculum, including subject range and extra-curricular activities. 


Flexibility and variety  

Independent schools benefit from the added flexibility of being able to take a mix of qualifications from different examination boards, including Scottish Qualifications Authority exams, GCSEs, A-levels and the International Baccalaureate.  

This gives every pupil the chance to excel at the subjects that capture their interests, and provides the best possible foundation for their future studies.  


Subject choice 

Their flexible curriculums allow independent schools to offer subjects that are a little more unusual, including:  

  • Latin 
  • Classics 
  • Mandarin 
  • Philosophy 
  • Environmental Science 
  • History of Art 
  • Economics 


Extra-curricular activities  

In addition to academic subjects, schools also offer a huge range of extra-curricular activities that pupils can take advantage of. These offer an exciting breadth of experiences that can help children grow in confidence, both physically and socially. Find out more about the extra-curricular activities offered here. 

Some examples are:  

  • Orchestras 
  • Concert Bands 
  • Jazz Bands 
  • Pipe Bands 
  • Equestrian 
  • Lacrosse 
  • Mountain-biking 
  • Rugby 
  • Sailing 
  • Snowboarding 
  • Outdoor Education 
  • Young Enterprise 
  • Community Service 


Alternative teaching methods  

In addition to a wide range of subjects and activities for pupils, the way that these are delivered can also vary. Small class sizes also enable teachers to give individual attention to each child, helping them to find their niche. This also enables teachers to assess when a pupil might be falling behind and take steps to remedy this. 

Independent schools are creative and forward looking in the teacher methods they employ – and example of this is outdoor learning, which is something that is widely practiced across our SCIS member schools.  

In our blog on the benefits of outdoor learning, Paula Sinclair from St George’s School for Girls explains: “Far from just increasing physical health, outdoor learning can have a wonderful effect on the mental health of pupils too. Learning is developed through play and experimentation, increasing motivation and focus at the same time.” 


No matter which independent school your child attends, it is guaranteed they will find enlightening and enriching experiences thanks to their wide variety of curricular choice. Their exciting curriculums and extra-curricular activities inspire a love of learning and encourage pupils to flourish, both academically and personally.  

If you are considering sending your child to a Scottish independent school, SCIS can help you with your search – use ourfind a school tool or get in touch with us today.